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Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has met with the Environment Secretary to discuss changes to the proposed Clean Air Zone and charging scheme for commercial vehicles.
Charges for the most polluting commercial vehicles are due to come into effect from May this year as part of a government directive to cut harmful NO2 air pollution in the city-region. However, inflation and global supply chain challenges are harming the ability of businesses across Greater Manchester to procure vehicles compliant with the scheme in time, with concerns from city-region leaders arguing that the £120 million support scheme is no longer sufficient to help businesses achieve compliance.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson confirmed Mayor Burnham has met with the Environment Secretary, George Eustice, to discuss the Clean Air Zone and would meet again in the next 7-10 days to agree a way forward.
In a the latest meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), which includes leaders of all 10 GM boroughs, Andy Burnham commented that ‘major changes’ to the scheme were necessary and outlined initial discussions with the Secretary of State. The Mayor said:
“I met with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Wednesday as only he can enable a review, variation or withdrawal of the Clean Air Scheme.
“We are all committed to improving air quality and the health of our residents but we also recognise that major changes are needed to the current scheme.
“I asked the Secretary of State to consider all options, in particular to lift the Government’s legal direction on all 10 Greater Manchester councils to provide more time for us to achieve compliance.
“This is because as we have previously articulated we fear the current scheme may not be successful in achieving compliance by 2024, but will cause real hardship to many businesses in Greater Manchester as a result of recent changes to the supply chain and cost inflation.”
In response to calls from the public for city-region leaders to cancel or amend plans, GMCA has also this week published the original 2019 letter from the then-Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey in 2019, instructing the city-region to implement a charging Clean Air Zone, in an attempt to clarify that only the Westminster government has the power to approve changes to the scheme.